Monday, May 17, 2010

Ibn Al-Nafis Damishqui

Ala-al-Din Abu al-Hasan Ali Ibn Abi al-Hazm al-Qarshi al- Damashqi al-Misri (1213-1288 C.E.) was born in 607 A.H. of Damascus. He was educated at the Medical College-cum-Hospital founded by Nur al-Din Zangi. In medicine his teacher was Muhaththab al-Din Abd al-Rahim. Apart from medicine, Ibn al-Nafis learnt jurisprudence, literature and theology. He thus became a renowned expert on Shafi'i School of Jurisprudence as well as a reputed physician.

After acquiring his expertise in medicine and jurisprudence, he moved to Cairo where he was appointed as the Principal at the famous Nasri Hospital. Here he imparted training to a large number of medical specialists, including Ibn al-Quff al-Masihi, the famous surgeon. He also served at the Mansuriya School at Cairo. When he died in 678 A.H. he donated his house, library and clinic to the Mansuriya Hospital.

His major contribution lies in medicine. His approach comprised writing detailed commentaries on early works, critically evaluating them and adding his own original contribution. His major original contribution of great significance was his discovery of the blood's circulatory system, which was re-discovered by modern science after a lapse of three centuries. He was the first to correctly describe the constitution of the lungs and gave a description of the bronchi and the interaction between the human body's vessels for air and blood. Also, he elaborated the function ofthe coronary arteries as feeding the cardiac muscle.

The most voluminous of his books is Al-Shamil fi al-Tibb, which was designed to be an encyclopaedia comprising 300 Volumes, but it could not be completed due to his death. The manuscript is available at Damascus. His book on ophthalmology is largely an original contribution and is also extant. However, his book that became most famous was Mujaz al-Qanun and a number of commentaries were written on this.

His own commentaries include one on Hippocrates' book. He wrote several volumes on Ibn Sina's Qanun, that are still extant. Likewise he wrote a commentary on Hunayn Ibn Ishaq's book. Another famous book embodying his original contribution was on the effects of diet on health, entitled Kitab al-Mukhtar fi al-Aghdhiya.

Ibn Al-Nafis' works integrated the then existing medical knowledge and enriched it, thus exerting great influence on the development of medical science, both in the East and the West. However, only one of his books was translated into Latin at early stages and, therefore, a part of his work remained unknown to Europe for a long time.

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